I went out foraging for magic mushrooms. It’s a fun activity to do with friends.
They pop up abundantly as the cooler autumn weather and steady light rains come in.
There’s also talk that this might be the time to start seriously using them as an aid to helping us deal with mental health problems.
But first a disclaimer.
I don’t take drugs.
My mental state isn’t nearly robust enough for anything heavier than a few calm pints usually.
I suspect a dose of LSD would send me into destructive overthinking overdrive, resulting in a Chernobyl-style mental meltdoon with subsequent decades of damaged decay.
But out I went foraging for mushrooms all the same, in the sunshine, just out the back of Bridge of Allan.
There are mushrooms that’ll kill you dead.
Others taste cracking in a stir fry and have a lovely texture.
These wee slightly slimy guys alter the way you perceive the world and your place in it.
And growing up in rural Angus where – I’m telt – magic mushrooms sprout abundantly, I knew a few folk who would gather them up in exactly the same spirit as they would forage for blackcurrants.
They’d cook up sugary preserves with the currants, and they’d dry out the mushrooms and go on wee quiet trips to wile away the deep Angus winters.
These were mature, sensible people.
Magic mushrooms – the science part
Down in London, a Scottish pal who has struggled with mental health in a fairly severe way over the years has been on at me for ages to try mushrooms with them.
They have membership of a secret club of people who gather and, in the presence of a self-proclaimed therapist, take measured doses of magic mushrooms.
This is to help them confront traumas that are too much to challenge, or too difficult to fully comprehend, process and compute, sober.
I haven’t gone.
But the idea of using magic mushrooms as a therapeutic is growing in popularity
The active part of magic mushrooms is Psilocybin.
In the 1970s, Psilocybin was apparently used pretty widely, and wildly, by all sorts of doctors working in the radical field of psychotherapy.
As the world turned more conservative, Psilocybin, along with all sorts of other promising paths to a better and happier future, was fenced off and padlocked by legislation.
In Scotland today, having some mushrooms is legally considered as bad as having some heroin.
This created a stigma that chased away scientific research for years.
Only this millennium have serious academics been circling back round these little mushrooms, contemplating their potential.
Studies are underway at Kings College London giving folk Psilocybin – in combination with meaningful support and therapy – as a way to help them deal with clinical depression.
Fine day for a forage in the hills
So anyway, a pal messaged me that sunny Monday last, and said he was away foraging for magic mushrooms and did I fancy going along?
I certainly did.
It was sweltering in the September sun, setting out from the train station car park.
A summer locked up in a cool, wet Scotland might sound shite. Might sound like a sentence on a sort of rainy prison island: Albacatraz
But actually, this is a cracking opportunity to get the place to ourselves! Get oot there and enjoy it 🌞🗻https://t.co/Icu5dJ7OZ0
— Alistair Heather (@Historic_Ally) June 18, 2021
My pal had a takeaway container, freshly rinsed out, and a fair idea of what we were after.
And a lovely walk winding along woodland paths got us away from the urban streets.
We passed a couple of groups of cheery pensioners out on a ramble in the unseasonable heat, and we all exchanged the obligatory hello, lovely day eh!
Hopping over a fence and into a rough paddock with some grazing sheep, we lowered our eyes and began foraging.
Down the strath, the Wallace monument gleamed silver like a sword in the sun, and the Great Hall of Stirling Castle showed off its medieval yellow paint job beautifully.
Mushrooms abounded in the haggard half-grazed grass at our feet, and we knelt close to each, checking its properties.
Scoring Class A drugs has never been bonnier.
Turns out our haul was far from magic
I say ‘scoring’, but to be honest we found nothing.
We collected a load of vaguely correct looking fungi, and came off the hill quietly delighted with ourselves.
The pictures were dutifully sent on to a third party, who quickly informed us that what we’d gathered were just normal mushrooms.
Nothing magic to see here.
Also, don’t eat them. They won’t be good for you.
Maybe the sheep had eaten the magic ones.
Or maybe the cheery pensioners had been up there before us, packing up their tupperware with the good gear for a wee trip doon the sheltered housing.
If so, fair play auld yins.
My mind is open to what comes next
I was quietly glad we didnae find any hallucinogens.
We got all the thrill of looking for them and thinking about their implications, without any of the actual criminality.
I want magic mushrooms to be a way for us to deal with the trauma, depression and anxiety that ruins and restricts so many good peoples’ lives.
I don’t know if they can do that, but I’ll watch for the study results with interest.
One thing’s for sure. Foraging with a pal in some belting hot weather was superb. And it certainly made me feel better.
And even just thinking about magic mushrooms has altered my perceptions.